Predatory Policing

A Review: The Terror Factory & the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism

The CAIR for New York Blog
By Awo Osman|  Feb 4, 2013

Does the FBI manufacture terrorism?

According to Trevor Aaronson’s investigative journalism, yes they do. On Thursday January 31, Aaronson spoke at his NYC book launch to expose the FBI network of informants that target Muslims who are type-casted as 'terrorists.' Far from questioning broader homeland security strategies that impede the civil rights of a certain category of Americans, Aaronson’s work questions the credibility of charges held against these individuals.

The underlying assumption here is that the FBI and the Judiciary system struggle with a crucial question: how to separate facts from psychology.

Psychology is at the heart of this book as both the FBI and the Jury are entrapped by their collective memories shaped by 9/11, while condemning these so called terrorists without necessarily considering the facts created by law enforcement that made the specific act of terror possible. Aaronson insists that it is not national security, but rather these individuals’ mental and social vulnerabilities that lead FBI informants to prey on them. 

Among the plethora of cases described by the author, the most remarkable one concerns the case of an Albany pizza owner named Mohammed Hossein. Hossein was a typical immigrant chasing the American dream.  He emigrated from Bangladesh in 1985 with his parents, wife and disabled young brother. As the only breadwinner of the family, he supported them all by operating a pizzeria in the heart of Albany.

How did the owner of a small pizzeria tucked away in Albany become a dangerous terrorist overnight?

The FBI used the help of their now notorious informant Shahed Hussein, to connect the pizzeria owner to the leader of the local Islamic Center called Yassin Aref. The informant’s profile is detailed in Aaronson’s book, and it highlights the FBI’s use of former criminals such as Shahed Hussein, as informants to entrap 'would-be terrorists.'

Shahed was born in an affluent family in Pakistan; he fled to the US with the help of a Russian smuggler to avoid convictions for numerous criminal charges including murder. After settling down in Albany and successfully applying for Political asylum and his naturalization, Shahed started to set up massive criminal scams to defraud innocent New Yorkers. These scams are exactly what put Shahed on the radar of the FBI. He eventually made a deal with the government agency to avoid criminal prosecution and he became an informant. His ability to speak languages spoken in the Muslim community made him a valuable asset for the FBI.

Shahed befriended the pizzeria owner and Bengali immigrant, and began to use him in an attempt to also lure the religious leader of an Albany Islamic center. Shahed learned about the pizza owner‘s financial struggles and offered to help him with money. In return, Hossein and the imam would have to sell a missile brought by the FBI informant. Although the pair did not set up any terrorist plot nor did they sell the missile, the FBI decided to arrest them and charge them with money laundering and supporting a foreign terrorist. 

Mohammed Hossein got 15 years while Yassin Arif was incarcerated in a special prison in Indiana. This case is particularly important because it also reveals a dysfunctional expertise. Counter terrorism experts burgeoned in the last decade but only a happy few possess sufficient knowledge. A self-proclaimed counter terrorism expert testified during the Hossein and Arif trial. In fact, Mohammed Hossein admitted his ties with the Jamaat Al Islami; a political party in Bangladesh but the expert confused the Bengali Jamaat Al Islami with the Pakistani Jamaat Al Islami, which was listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. This ultimate mistake destroyed Hossein and Arif's lives.

Debate Surrounding Aarsonson's Book

As expected one of the FBI agents involved in this kind of operation responded to Aaronson's Terror Factory. Ali Soufan, under the guise of writing a review of the book, wrote an inflammatory diatribe where he defended his own methods of investigation. But the goal here is not to observe a tennis match between Aaronson and the FBI but to understand how post 9/11 homeland security strategies targeted a single community, and how American Muslims civil rights eroded in the name of US National Security and US Foreign Policy.

And that is precisely the limitation of this book; Aaronson hardly evokes how US Foreign Policy and US engagement in two wars necessarily shaped homeland security strategies. By emphasizing the lack of ethics and the entrapment strategies, Aaronson’s research does not grasp the core issue, which is the credibility of a rising homegrown terrorism. Simply put, so-called terrorists have been incited by FBI entrapment scenarios; they would not have engaged in terrorism without the actions of FBI informants

Famous think tanks such as the Rand Corporation and the Council of Foreign Relations warned against a potential “homegrown terrorism on the peak.” But the book demystifies most of the cases generally exhibited as undeniable proof. Aaronson shows that the famous case of the "Lakwana Six" that involved six Yemeni men was null and void, as the Government did not have any proof against them. Mohamed Osman, a young Somali- American from Portland, who allegedly worked for the Al Qaeda run magazine Inspire, is in fact another case set up by the FBI. Of course, no one denies that different individuals such as Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab tried to carry out terrorist actions on the American soil but these actions had been mastermind by Al Qaeda linked groups outside of the United States and do not involve American- Muslims. And this reality opens the door to another question:  why does the FBI not focus on how to prevent US citizens to join war zones and fight for Al Qaeda related groups? But tackling this issue requires another book.

Furthermore, Aaronson does not explain about how the FBI gets the funding that its informants easily provide to their targets. Although he mentions the different types of procedures like “ off the table” or “ off the taxes,” the readers do not necessarily understand how and where this money comes from and how it is budgeted. 

In conclusion, Aaronson’s book explains the unchecked FBI strategies that help “manufacture" terrorism while not analyzing the potential reasons our government exploits and publicizes that same manufactured terrorism. More broadly, this book provides arguments to dismiss a commonly accepted view that rising homegrown terrorism is essentially led by American- Muslims. I hope this book can open more discussions about these strategies, and forces communities to consider the government's role in these cases before immediately celebrating the imprisonment of another vulnerable individual who's only crime was to be duped by the feds. 

 

Awo Osman is a government affairs intern at CAIR-NY. She is enrolled in the Masters Program for International Relations at the New York University. 

 

Inside the Terror Factory

Mother Jones
Trevor Aaronson|  January 11, 2013

See original article here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/terror-factory-fbi-trevor-aaronson-book

TF_image_2.jpg

Editor's note: This story is adapted from The Terror Factory, Trevor Aaronson's new book documenting how the Federal Bureau of Investigation has built a vast network of informants to infiltrate Muslim communities and, in some cases, cultivate phony terrorist plots. The book grew from Aaronson's award-winning Mother Jones cover story "The Informants" and his research in the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley.

Quazi Mohammad Nafis was a 21-year-old student living in Queens, New York, when the US government helped turn him into a terrorist.

His transformation began on July 5, when Nafis, a Bangladeshi citizen who'd come to the United States on a student visa that January, shared aspirations with a man he believed he could trust. Nafis told this man in a phone call that he wanted to wage jihad in the United States, that he enjoyed reading Al Qaeda propaganda, and that he admired "Sheikh O," or Osama bin Laden. Who this confidant was and how Nafis came to meet him remain unclear; what we know from public documents is that the man told Nafis he could introduce him to an Al Qaeda operative.

It was a hot, sunny day in Central Park on July 24 when Nafis met with Kareem, who said he was with Al Qaeda. Nafis, who had a slight build, mop of black hair, and a feebly grown beard, told Kareem that he was "ready for action."

"What I really mean is that I don’t want something that's, like, small," Nafis said. "I just want something big. Something very big. Very, very, very, very big, that will shake the whole country."

Nafis said he wanted to bomb the New York Stock Exchange, and with help from his new Al Qaeda contact, he surveilled the iconic building at 11 Wall Street. "We are going to need a lot of TNT or dynamite," Nafis told Kareem. But Nafis didn't have any explosives, and, as court records indicate, he didn’t know anyone who could sell him explosives, let alone have the money to purchase such materials. His father, a banker in Bangladesh, had spent his entire life savings to send Nafis to the United States after his son, who was described to journalists as dim by people who knew him in his native country, had flunked out of North South University in Bangladesh.

Kareem suggested they rent a storage facility to stash the material they'd need for a car bomb. He said he'd put up the money for it, and get the materials. Nafis dutifully agreed, and suggested a new target: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Nafis later met Kareem at a storage facility, where Nafis poured the materials Kareem had brought into trash bins, believing he was creating a 1,000-pound car bomb that could level a city block.

In truth, the stuff was inert. And Kareem was an undercover FBI agent, tipped off by the man who Nafis had believed was a confidant—an FBI informant. The FBI had secretly provided everything Nafis needed for his attack: not only the storage facility and supposed explosives, but also the detonator and the van that Nafis believed would deliver the bomb.

On the morning of October 17, Nafis and Kareem drove the van to Lower Manhattan and parked it in front of the Federal Reserve Bank on Liberty Street. Then they walked to a nearby hotel room, where Nafis dialed on his cellphone the number he believed would trigger the bomb, but nothing happened. He dialed again, and again. The only result was Nafis' apprehension by federal agents.

"The defendant thought he was striking a blow to the American economy," US Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement after the arrest. "At every turn, he was wrong, and his extensive efforts to strike at the heart of the nation's financial system were foiled by effective law enforcement. We will use all of the tools at our disposal to stop any such attack before it can occur."

How many of these would-be terrorists would have acted were it not for an FBI agent provocateur helping them? Is it possible that the FBI is creating the very enemy we fear?

Federal officials say they are protecting Americans with these operations—but from whom? Real terrorists, or dupes like Nafis, who appear unlikely to have the capacity for terrorism were it not for FBI agents providing the opportunity and means?

Nafis is one of more than 150 men since 9/11 who have been caught in FBI terrorism stings, some of whom have received 25 years or more in prison. In these cases, the FBI uses one of its more than 15,000 registered informants—many of them criminals, others trying to stay in the country following immigration violations—to identify potential terrorists. It then provides the means necessary for these would-be terrorists to move forward with a plot—in some cases even planting specific ideas for attacks. The FBI now spends $3 billion on counterterrorism annually, the largest portion of its budget. Our nation's top law enforcement agency, traditionally focused on investigating crimes after they occur, now operates more as an intelligence organization that tries to preempt crimes before they occur. But how many of these would-be terrorists would have acted were it not for an FBI agent provocateur helping them? Is it possible that the FBI is creating the very enemy we fear?

Those are the questions I set out to explore beginning in 2010. With the help of a research assistant, I built a database of more than 500 terrorism prosecutions since 9/11 [9], looking closely and critically at every terrorism case brought into federal courts during the past decade. We pored through thousands of pages of court records, and found that nearly half of all terrorism cases since 9/11 involved informants, many of them paid as much as $100,000 per assignment by the FBI. At the time of the story's publication in Mother Jones in August 2011, 49 defendants had participated in plots led by an FBI agent provocateur, and that number has continued to rise since.

Historically, media coverage of these operations—begun under George W. Bush and continuing apace under Barack Obama—was mostly uncritical. With their aggressive tactics essentially unknown to the public, the FBI and Justice Department controlled the narrative: another dangerous terrorist apprehended by vigilant federal agents!

But in late 2011, the conversation began to shift. A couple of months after my story in Mother Jones and following the announcement of a far-fetched sting in which a Massachusetts man believed he'd been poised to destroy the US Capitol building using grenade-laden, remote-controlled airplanes, TPM Muckraker published a story headlined: "The Five Most Bizarre Terror Plots Hatched Under the FBI's Watch." Author David K. Shipler, in an April 2012 New York Times editorial, questioned the legitimacy of terrorism stings involving people who appeared to have no wherewithal to commit acts of terror: "Some threats are real, others less so. In terrorism, it's not easy to tell the difference." Stories in other major news outlets followed suit, and by October 2012, a post in Foreign Policy was asking: “How many idiot jihadis can the FBI fool?

Which brings us back to Nafis. "The case appears to be the latest to fit a model in which, in the process of flushing out people they believe present a risk of terrorism, federal law enforcement officials have played the role of enabler," reported the New York Times, after the Justice Department announced Nafis' arrest. "Though these operations have almost always held up in court, they have come under increasing criticism from those who believe that many of the subjects, even some who openly espoused violence, would have been unable to execute such plots without substantial assistance from the government."

To read the remainder of this article, click here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/terror-factory-fbi-trevor-aaronson-book

See original article here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/terror-factory-fbi-trevor-aaronson-book

Informant: NYPD paid me to 'bait' Muslims

By ADAM GOLDMAN and MATT APUZZO | Associated Press – Tue, Oct 23, 2012Original article found at Yahoo News: http://news.yahoo.com/informant-nypd-paid-bait-muslims-134358506.html

NEW YORK (AP) — A paid informant for the New York Police Department's intelligence unit was under orders to "bait" Muslims into saying inflammatory things as he lived a double life, snapping pictures inside mosques and collecting the names of innocent people attending study groups on Islam, he told The Associated Press.

Shamiur Rahman, a 19-year-old American of Bangladeshi descent who has now denounced his work as an informant, said police told him to embrace a strategy called "create and capture." He said it involved creating a conversation about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the response to send to the NYPD. For his work, he earned as much as $1,000 a month and goodwill from the police after a string of minor marijuana arrests.

"We need you to pretend to be one of them," Rahman recalled the police telling him. "It's street theater."

Rahman said he now believes his work as an informant against Muslims in New York was "detrimental to the Constitution." After he disclosed to friends details about his work for the police — and after he told the police that he had been contacted by the AP — he stopped receiving text messages from his NYPD handler, "Steve," and his handler's NYPD phone number was disconnected.

Rahman's account shows how the NYPD unleashed informants on Muslim neighborhoods, often without specific targets or criminal leads. Much of what Rahman said represents a tactic the NYPD has denied using.

The AP corroborated Rahman's account through arrest records and weeks of text messages between Rahman and his police

handler. The AP also reviewed the photos Rahman sent to police. Friends confirmed Rahman was at certain events when he said he was there, and former NYPD officials, while not personally familiar with Rahman, said the tactics he described were used by informants.

Informants like Rahman are a central component of the NYPD's wide-ranging programs to monitor life in Muslim

neighborhoods since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Police officers have eavesdropped inside Muslim businesses, trained video cameras on mosques and collected license plates of worshippers. Informants who trawl the mosques — known informally as "mosque crawlers" — tell police what the imam says at sermons and provide police lists of attendees, even when there's no evidence they committed a crime.

The programs were built with unprecedented help from the CIA.

Police recruited Rahman in late January, after his third arrest on misdemeanor drug charges, which Rahman believed would

lead to serious legal consequences. An NYPD plainclothes officer approached him in a Queens jail and asked whether he wanted to turn his life around.

The next month, Rahman said, he was on the NYPD's payroll.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Tuesday. He has denied widespread NYPD spying, saying police only follow leads.

In an Oct. 15 interview with the AP, however, Rahman said he received little training and spied on "everything and anyone." He took pictures inside the many mosques he visited and eavesdropped on imams. By his own measure, he said he was very good at his job and his handler never once told him he was collecting too much, no matter whom he was spying on.

Rahman said he thought he was doing important work protecting New York City and considered himself a hero.

One of his earliest assignments was to spy on a lecture at the Muslim Student Association at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. The speaker was Ali Abdul Karim, the head of security at the Masjid At-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn. The NYPD had been concerned about Karim for years and already had infiltrated the mosque, according to NYPD documents obtained by the AP.

Rahman also was instructed to monitor the student group itself, though he wasn't told to target anyone specifically. His NYPD handler, Steve, told him to take pictures of people at the events, determine who belonged to the student association and identify its leadership.

On Feb. 23, Rahman attended the event with Karim and listened, ready to catch what he called a "speaker's gaffe." The NYPD was interested in buzz words such as "jihad" and "revolution," he said. Any radical rhetoric, the NYPD told him, needed to be reported.

John Jay president Jeremy Travis said Tuesday that police had not told the school about the surveillance. He did not say whether he believed the tactic was appropriate.

"As an academic institution, we are committed to the free expression of ideas and to creating a safe learning environment for all of our students," he said in a written statement. "We are working closely with our Muslim students to affirm their rights and to reassure them that we support their organization and freedom to assemble."

Talha Shahbaz, then the vice president of the student group, met Rahman at the event. As Karim was finishing his talk on Malcolm X's legacy, Rahman told Shahbaz that he wanted to know more about the student group. They had briefly attended the same high school in Queens.

Rahman said he wanted to turn his life around and stop using drugs, and said he believed Islam could provide a purpose in life. In the following days, Rahman friended him on Facebook and the two exchanged phone numbers. Shahbaz, a Pakistani who came to the U.S. more three years ago, introduced Rahman to other Muslims.

"He was telling us how he loved Islam and it's changing him," said Asad Dandia, who also became friends with Rahman.

Secretly, Rahman was mining his new friends for details about their lives, taking pictures of them when they ate at restaurants and writing down license plates on the orders of the NYPD.

On the NYPD's instructions, he went to more events at John Jay, including when Siraj Wahhaj spoke in May. Wahhaj, 62, is a prominent but controversial New York imam who has attracted the attention of authorities for years. Prosecutors included his name on a 3 ½-page list of people they said "may be alleged as co-conspirators" in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, though he was never charged. In 2004, the NYPD placed Wahhaj on an internal terrorism watch list and noted: "Political ideology moderately radical and anti-American."

That evening at John Jay, a friend took a photograph of Wahhaj with a grinning Rahman.

Rahman said he kept an eye on the MSA and used Shahbaz and his friends to facilitate traveling to events organized by the Islamic Circle of North America and Muslim American Society. The society's annual convention in Hartford, Conn, draws a large number of Muslims and plenty of attention from the NYPD. According to NYPD documents obtained by the AP, the NYPD sent three informants there in 2008 and was keeping tabs on the group's former president.

Rahman was told to spy on the speakers and collect information. The conference was dubbed "Defending Religious Freedom." Shahbaz paid Rahman's travel expenses.

Rahman, who was born in Queens, said he never witnessed any criminal activity or saw anybody do anything wrong.

He said he sometimes intentionally misinterpreted what people had said. For example, Rahman said he would ask people what they thought about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, knowing the subject was inflammatory. It was easy to take statements out of context, he said. Rahman said he wanted to please his NYPD handler, whom he trusted and liked.

"I was trying to get money," Rahman said. "I was playing the game."

Rahman said police never discussed the activities of the people he was assigned to target for spying. He said police told him once, "We don't think they're doing anything wrong. We just need to be sure."

On some days, Rahman's spent hours and covered miles in his undercover role. On Sept. 16, for example, he made his way in the morning to the Al Farooq Mosque in Brooklyn, snapping photographs of an imam and the sign-up sheet for those attending a regular class on Islamic instruction. He also provided their cell phone numbers to the NYPD. That evening he spied on people at Masjid Al-Ansar, also in Brooklyn.

Text messages on his phone showed that Rahman also took pictures last month of people attending the 27th annual Muslim Day Parade in Manhattan. The parade's grand marshal was New York City Councilman Robert Jackson.

Rahman said he eventually tired of spying on his friends, noting that at times they delivered food to needy Muslim families. He said he once identified another NYPD informant spying on him. He took $200 more from the NYPD and told them he was done as an informant. He said the NYPD offered him more money, which he declined. He told friends on Facebook in early October that he had been a police spy but had quit. He also traded Facebook messages with Shahbaz, admitting he had spied on students at John Jay.

"I was an informant for the NYPD, for a little while, to investigate terrorism," he wrote on Oct. 2. He said he no longer thought it was right. Perhaps he had been hunting terrorists, he said, "but I doubt it."

Shahbaz said he forgave Rahman.

"I hated that I was using people to make money," Rahman said. "I made a mistake."

___

Staff writer David Caruso in New York contributed to this story.

See original article at Yahoo News: http://news.yahoo.com/informant-nypd-paid-bait-muslims-134358506.html

ACTION ALERT: Urge NYPD to Stop 'Baiting' Muslims

ACTION ALERT: Urge NYPD to Stop 'Baiting' Muslims

A recent report published by the Associated Press revealed an NYPD informant's admission of his role to 'bait' innocent Muslims into saying inflamatory things.

NYPD Informant: "NYPD paid me to 'bait' Muslims"

We cannot stand by and watch more young Muslims being manipulated by the NYPD to violate the trust of our own communities. These policies are damaging to our communities and our elected officials must address these urgent concerns.

ACT NOW & JOIN CAIR-NY CALLS TO REFORM THE NYPD

CAIR-NY has been working with the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC) and Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) to pass the “Community Safety Act,” a package of 4 bills (Intro. 799, 800, 801, & 881) that would strengthen protections for minority communities and institute an independent Inspector General to exercise oversight over the NYPD.

A majority of City Council members have already signed on to support the “Community Safety Act”, even as Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD are resisting calls for change. But we still need more Council members to sign on to override the Mayor’s veto. The following Council members have not signed on to support the Community Safety Act.

  1. Support the Community Safety Act.
  2. I am very concerned with the latest AP reports revealing the NYPD's use of informants to 'bait' Muslims.
  3. The damaging effectes of mass surveillance and discriminatory policing will not be addressed without reforming the NYPD.
  4. We need legal safeguards, accountability, and oversight of the NYPD in order to protect all our communities.

FIND CITY COUNCIL DISTRICTS & CONTACT INFO HERE:

http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml

 

MANHATTAN:

Christine Quinn, Speaker of the City Council

QUEENS:

Peter Koo

Mark Weprin

Eric Ulrich

Elizabeth Crowley

James Gennaro

Peter Vallone, Jr., Chairman of the Public Safety Committee

BROOKLYN:

Erik Martin Dilan

Lewis Fidler

Darlene Mealy

Michael Nelson

Vincent Gentile

Domenic Recchia, Jr.

BRONX:

Joel Rivera

James Vacca

STATEN ISLAND:

Vincent Ignizio

James Oddo

After you call and e-mail, make sure your friends and family do too. If you have further questions, please contact CAIR-NY Advocacy Director Cyrus McGoldrick at 212-870-2002, or cmcgoldrick@cair.com.

Sharp Words At City Council Meeting on NYPD Tactics

By WENDY RUDERMAN
Published: October 10, 2012

“Outbursts are prohibited,” City Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. warned as a hearing on bills centered largely on the New York Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk practices began on Wednesday morning.

But it did not take long for the calm to be disturbed. The hearing, which stretched on for nearly six hours, featured a series of outbursts, squabbles and sharp exchanges.

The hearing, before the Public Safety Committee, included testimony from about a dozen people on four bills aimed at police reform — three of which deal with street stops. The fourth bill would create an Office of Inspector General to monitor the Police Department, a measure both Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly oppose, arguing there is enough oversight already.

Most of the negative remarks were directed at Michael Best, the mayor’s counselor, who testified against the bills on behalf of Mr. Bloomberg and the department.

Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat and a lead sponsor of the bills, collectively known as the Community Safety Act, voiced his frustration that Commissioner Kelly and Mr. Bloomberg did not attend the hearing. Mr. Williams likened them to 5-year-olds throwing temper tantrums and refusing to come to the table.

Mr. Best shot back: “We have discussed these issues with the Council on many, many occasions, and it’s unfair to characterize what we are doing here as a temper tantrum, which is wholly inaccurate.”

Mr. Williams responded, “There is a temper tantrum,” as Speaker Christine C. Quinn, who attended the hearing, placed her hand on his shoulder in an apparent gesture to calm him down.

“We’re not going away until changes have occurred,” he said.

The bills that address the stop-and-frisk tactic would do several things:

¶ Require police officers, when conducting stops, to identify themselves, provide their name and rank, and explain the reason for the stop.

¶ Seek to add teeth to an existing ban on racial profiling.

¶ Require that officers inform individuals of their right to refuse a search and obtain proof of their consent, if granted, in cases in which there is no other legal basis to search an individual.

 

See the original article at the New York Times website:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/11/nyregion/sharp-exchanges-at-city-council-hearing-on-stop-and-frisk-tactic.html?_r=0

Silent March Against Racial Profiling

Join the NAACP, 1199 SEIU, National Action Network, Civil Rights, faith, labor and community groups in a silent march against NYCs "Stop and Frisk" policy!

On Father's Day, let's stand together to show that New Yorkers refuse to let our children be victimized by racial profiling.

Location: 110th Street (between 5th and Lenox Avenues) NY, NY

Sunday, June 17, 2012.

Time: 1:00 PM EST

www.silentmarchnyc.org

Tension between FBI and NYPD grows over NYPD surveillance tactics

Consequences for security as NYPD-FBI rift widens

NEW YORK (AP) — In the fall of 2010, the FBI and New York Police Department were working together on a terrorism investigation on Long Island. The cyber case had been open for more than a year at the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn. So, the Justice Department was surprised when, without notice, the NYPD went to federal prosecutors in Manhattan and asked them to approve a search warrant in the case.

Full Article: Associated Press

Fighting for the Fourth Amendment

Fighting for the Fourth Amendment: Fourth Amendment Privacy Rights Preserved By The High Court

By: Christopher Carrion, CAIR-New York Civil Rights Intern

On January 23, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision to limit intrusive government and law enforcement surveillance tactics, thus defending an important aspect of our privacy and civil rights. The case, United States v. Jones, involved Antoine Jones, owner of a night club in Washington, D.C., who was suspected by the Metropolitan Police Department of trafficking narcotics. Police obtained a warrant authorizing the attachment of a GPS tracking device to Jones’s car. Despite the warrant having a 10 day expiration, the GPS device was attached on the 11th day.

Under the previous understanding of the law, a person had no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in a motor vehicle used on public streets (United States v. Knotts), meaning that law enforcement agencies had a blank check to conduct surveillance using electronic devices such as GPS systems, beepers, tracking beacons, etc., on anyone they wanted, for as long as they wanted, and for any reason, without a warrant. This is especially disturbing in light of our post 9/11 world where warrantless government surveillance is as legal as constitutionally protected speech, worship and assembly. Case in point: the NYPD’s inflammatory document, “Radicalization in the West.”

The Jones case highlighted the principles of privacy and the judicial oversight of law enforcement power. The 4th Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures in their person, houses, papers and effects. The decision by the Supreme Court signals a great victory for civil liberties; the government can no longer conduct surveillance on people without probable cause, and without a warrant.

The court cited trespass law to support their decision that the government violated the Constitution. This means that the government cannot trespass onto your vehicle (your effects) without a warrant or without your permission. The same reasoning also applies to your homes, your person (meaning body and clothes), and your papers (documents, briefcases etc.). People are now better protected from unwarranted, excessive, and invasive surveillance tactics.

This case involved the FBI placing a device on one person’s vehicle, however, since this is a Supreme Court
decision involving a question of the U.S. constitution, the ruling applies nationwide to law enforcement agencies everywhere, including the FBI, Homeland Security, and police forces like the NYPD. Although the decision was restricted to government planted GPS devices, it remains unclear what the legal requirements are regarding cell phone GPS or user/factory installed GPS on vehicles. The court did signal that those too might be within the grasp of the Constitution’s warrant requirement.

The court has stated that a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy can be diminished if they installed their own GPS device or used a cell phone. The legal implications behind this must now explored by the Supreme Court.

Muslims and Civil Rights Activists Call for the Resignation of Ray Kelly and for Independent NYPD Oversight

activists and allies gathered on Friday, February 3, at Foley Square, calling for the resignation of Commissioner Ray Kelly and NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne. The rally was organized by the Majilis Ashura of Metro NY and DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving).

“The NYPD has transgressed all boundaries of respect for our community by spying and surveilling masjids, Muslim run business, and MSA’s in the tri-state area through the ‘Demographics Unit’,” said CAIR-NY in a statement.“More recently the NYPD has used the anti-Muslim film ‘The Third Jihad’ as part of NYPD training.”

The rallies come as a response to recent revelations that the NYPD, as part of their officer counterterrorism trainging, screened ‘The Third Jihad’, an anti-Muslim propaganda film, to 1500 police officers. The NYPD had claimed earlier last year that the movie was only shown to a few officers. Ray Kelly also denied any involvement in the production of the film, until an article published by the New York Times reported that Ray Kelly had consented to being interviewed for the film.

CAIR, along with the Majilis Ashura and DRUM , are demanding for independant community control of the NYPD, with an oversight mechanism with subpoena power to monitor the NYPD.

The rally on Friday saw over 300 attendees, along with 30 – 40 media outlets. The rally was extensivly covered by the media in a positive light. Other communities also joined to demand for Ray Kelly, and Paul Browne’s resignation, and for corrective training within the NYPD.

“The Muslim community was not only successful in bringing these issues to light, but also in unititng other communities to hold the NYPD responsible for its actions,” said Cyrus McGoldrick, Civil Rights Manager of CAIR-NY. “This is not the end, only the beginning.

Muslims to NYPD: 'Respect us, we will respect you'

NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of Muslims prayed in a lower Manhattan park and marched to New York Police headquarters Friday to protest a decade of police infiltrating mosques and spying on Muslim neighborhoods.

Bundled in winter clothes, men and women knelt as the call to prayer echoed off the cold stone of government buildings.

“Being Muslim does not negate our nationality,” Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid told the crowd of about 500 gathered in Foley Square, not far from City Hall and local courthouses. “We are unapologetically Muslim and uncompromisingly American.”

The demonstration was smaller and more subdued than the Occupy Wall Street protests that led to clashes with police and made headlines worldwide. Police wore windbreakers, not riot gear, and protesters called for improved relations with police.

“We want for you to respect us,” Abdur-Rashid said, “and we will respect you.”

It was the first organized opposition to the NYPD’s intelligence tactics since an Associated Press investigation revealed widespread spying programs that documented every aspect of Muslim life in New York. Police infiltrated mosques and student groups. Plainclothes officers catalogued Middle Eastern restaurants and their clientele. Analysts built databases on Arab cab drivers and monitored Muslims who changed their names.

“Had this been happening to any other religious group, all of America would be outraged,” said Daoud Ibraheem, 73, a retired graphic artist from Brooklyn.

Following the prayer service, the Muslims — joined by about 50 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators — crowded the sidewalk for the short walk to the large police headquarters building known as One Police Plaza. They stayed only briefly, chanting for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s ouster, before returning to Foley Square.

Protesters carried signs that said “NYPD Watches Us. Who Watches NYPD?” A dozen or so uniformed police officers monitored the demonstration and followed the march, but there were no clashes between protesters and police

At an unrelated news conference Friday, Kelly told reporters that he “categorically” denied the idea that the NYPD was spying.

Kelly and his intelligence chief, David Cohen, have transformed the NYPD into one of the nation’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies. It operates far outside the city borders and its manpower and budget give it capabilities that even the federal government does not have. NYPD analysts were among the first to study the thorny question of how people are radicalized.

Kelly said his officers only follow leads and do not simply trawl neighborhoods.

“We do what we believe necessary to protect this city, pursuant to the law,” Kelly said. “We have a battery of very experienced, well-trained lawyers that advise us on all of our tactics and operations.”

Outside the department, however, there is little oversight of the Intelligence Division and it’s roughly $60 million budget. The City Council is not told about all the department’s secret operations and city auditors have not scrutinized the unit since it was transformed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Some of its tactics, such as monitoring name changes, would not be allowed by the FBI because of civil liberties concerns.

Many of the NYPD programs were built with the help of the CIA as part of an unusually close collaboration that is now the subject of an internal CIA investigation.

“America is supposed to be a country that protects your freedoms,” said Yusuf Ali Muhammed, a protester from the Bronx who wore an embroidered skullcap and a white Middle Eastern robe. “But America has become a hypocritical government, a government that thinks it can do anything it wants with nobody objecting.”

Abdur-Rashid, of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, said it was no secret that police have been watching mosques for years. But monitoring everything from Islamic schools to restaurants, as shown in NYPD documents, was unacceptable, he said.

“We’re peaceful people,” said Dalia Nazzal, 18, a freshman at the City University of New York, a target of police infiltration. “We don’t deserve to be under surveillance.”

Mohamed Mahmoud, 40, the owner of a Brooklyn printing shop, said he knew several people who had been approached by NYPD officers trying to recruit them as informants. Documents obtained by the AP also show that police monitored even those Muslims who decried terrorism and partnered with the government to prevent violence.

“They think that all Muslims are criminals, and it’s not right,” Mahmoud said.

Muslim Protesters Demand End to Surveillance

Hundreds of Muslims staged a rally and public prayers in New York City Friday, to protest alleged ethnic and religious profiling in their community by the city’s police department.

Demonstrators gathered in New York’s Foley Square chanting for an end to surveillance. They also held signs condemning the New York City Police Department for allegedly infiltrating mosques, spying on Muslim student groups, cataloguing Middle Eastern restaurants and compiling data on Arab cab drivers. The charges came to light in a recent investigative report by the Associated Press.

In a sermon at the rally during traditional Friday Muslim prayers, Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid said Muslims in the United States are unapologetic about their faith and uncompromisingly American.

“Our American identity is based on ideals, and principals and affirmation of truth. We affirm the American dream,” he said.

One of the signs at the rally said “The police watch us. Who’s watching the police?”

The National Lawyers Guild does just that. A team from the non-profit federation of lawyers, legal workers, and law students came to the rally to observe interaction between the protesters and police. Guild member Bina Ahmad said government surveillance without probable cause violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She said there is no valid reason for infiltrating the Muslim community.

“We all have the right to be free and equal citizens, have the right to free speech, to be free of a police state,” said Ahmad. “We have the Fourth Amendment, your right against unreasonable search and seizure. And we’re all law-abiding citizens.”

An NYPD liaison with the Muslim community declined VOA’s request for comment, pointing instead to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s recent testimony at a City Council hearing about the surveillance. Kelly said the NYPD does not engage in racial profiling, but rather, “follows leads wherever those leads may take us.” One council member asked if police have ever gone to a mosque or followed a person without a specific lead. Kelly said he could not answer that definitively.

Muslims Question Privacy Rights After NYPD Investigation

Even before it showed up in a secret police report, everybody in Bay Ridge knew that Mousa Ahmad’s café was being watched. Strangers loitered across the street from the café in this Brooklyn neighborhood. Quiet men would hang around for hours, listening to other customers. Once police raided the barber shop next door, searched through the shampoos and left. Customers started staying away for fear of ending up on a blacklist, and eventually Ahmad had to close the place.

But when asked if he would consider legal action against the police, Ahmad just shrugs. “The police do what they want,” he said, standing in front of the empty storefront where his café used to be. “If I went to court to sue, what do you think would happen? Things would just get worse.”

It’s a common sentiment among those who are considering their legal options in the wake of an Associated Press investigation into a massive New York Police Department surveillance program targeting Muslims.

Many of the targets feel they have little recourse — and because privacy laws have weakened dramatically since 9/11, they may be right, legal experts say. “It’s really not clear that people can do anything if they’ve been subjected to unlawful surveillance anymore,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Google Refuses to Take Down Police Brutality Videos Despite Pressure from Law Enforcement

Google has refused to take down online videos showing police brutality despite a petition from a US law enforcement agency. The Huffington Post reports that the petition was made earlier this year although Google has not clarified as to why it rejected the petition.

“We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove,” Google said in a report. ”Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests.”

In the first half of 2011, Google has so far been asked to remove 757 items; 80% percent of content was asked to be removed due to accusations of defamation.

“Some requests may not [be] specific enough for us to know what the government wanted us to remove (for example, no URL is listed in the request), and others involve allegations of defamation through informal letters from government agencies rather than a court orders [sic],” Google said. ”We generally rely on courts to decide if a statement is defamatory according to local law.”